Dominique Lévy and Brett Gorvy announced that they will share representation of 37-year-old artist Dan Colen with his current galleries, Gagosian and Massimo De Carlo. Lévy Gorvy’s first exhibition with the artist will be in March 2018, at the gallery’s New York location.
Lévy Gorvy, which has spaces in New York and London, has become known for exhibitions of late-career and historical artists. Lévy described the gallery’s relationship with Colen as “a collaboration that is project-determined. The exhibition he has conceived for our space could not be for the other galleries.” Lévy Gorvy has one of the few stand-alone building spaces on the Upper East Side, with three floors of exhibition space in a landmarked 1931 Neo-Federal building.
Gorvy emphasized that it will be a matter of how Colen’s art “works with our taste and client base, which is different from the client base of a De Carlo and a Gagosian.”
Working with Colen, Gorvy said, will be about “how we can add value to an artist who has had a fantastic career to this point.” He added, “It’s likeminded galleries saying each of us has a different approach and audience and space, and how do we work together to work with an artist we have great respect for.”
Colen became known early in his career as part of a group of mischief-making downtown artists that New York magazine, in 2006, dubbed “Warhol’s Children.” (In 2007, Colen and the late Dash Snow memorably shredded thousands of New York City telephone books and had artists roll around in the mess naked for their Nest at Deitch Projects.)
A 2014 profile in the Guardian described an artist who had cleaned up his act and moved to a farm in upstate New York to more fully focus on his art-making.
More recently, Colen has been making abstract and figurative paintings in oil on canvas, as well as abstract paintings made from unconventional materials such as bubble gum, flowers, steel studs, and confetti. He has also made installations incorporating things like motorcycles, whoopee cushions, and guitar cases.
Lévy, who had been following Colen’s career, visited the artist’s studio last fall with the independent curator Neville Wakefield. Gorvy made his own visit in January of this year, a few weeks after becoming a partner in the gallery, and was impressed by the “intensity of his way of working.” Over the past year, Colen has been working on a new series of “Purgatory” paintings made in oil on canvas which have not yet been shown and which, Gorvy said, “combine love of surface and layer upon layer of colors” and show Colen “looking at artists like Guston and Marden.” Lévy Gorvy will premiere the “Purgatory” series by showing a large painting in their booth at Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, next month. They expect their exhibition in March 2018, in New York, to include examples from “Purgatory” as well as other recent series of Colens, called “Mail Order” and “Mother,” respectively.
Colen’s work has had a relatively swift rise in market value. In 2009, when Colen was 30, a 2005 candle painting sold at Sotheby’s for $385,500. More recently, a 2008 bubble gum painting made $1.1 million at Sotheby’s in 2013, and a 2006 candle painting set Colen’s current auction record of $3.1 million at Christie’s in 2014. He has had multiple shows at private foundations, but has not been as embraced by public institutions and has had uneven critical reception. Gorvy said working with museums will be a priority, as will Colen’s “growth in a world market and within Asia,” where the gallery is “looking more from museum perspective than from a commercial point of view.”
The market has tended to pigeonhole Colen, Gorvy said. The goal is to “make people more aware of what he has been doing. It’s not just about one series or one work.”
Gagosian did its first solo shows with Colen in 2009 (a small-scale show in London) and 2010 (a large exhibition in New York). He has since had solo exhibitions at Gagosian spaces in Athens, Rome, Paris, and, most recently, Hong Kong. Sam Orlofsky, the Gagosian director who has worked with Colen since 2006, said, “When I think of Dominique Lévy and Brett Gorvy, I think of Yves Klein, Kazuo Shiraga, Frank Stella, Willem de Kooning, and Jean-Michel Basquiat—all of them giants, artists who have varied, radical practices. So if I were a collector of Dan’s, I would feel extremely reassured to know that in addition to the commitment of the biggest gallery in the world, people with expertise in those other artists feel there is an opportunity to contextualize his work along with theirs.”
He added, “Dan is at a point in his career where it will help if it can be clarified to people exactly what he does—if, of the different elements of his work, perhaps a single one at a time can be foregrounded.”
Colen has an upcoming solo show at the Astrup Fearnley, a private museum in Oslo, Norway (his second solo exhibition there), and Gorvy said another exhibition is being planned for an institution in Asia opening in late 2019, but details were not yet available.